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The judge in the Phil Spector murder trial overruled defense objections Wednesday and said he would allow a fifth woman to testify about being threatened with a gun by the music producer.
Prosecutor Alan Jackson had argued that Devra Robitaille’s testimony was warranted because Spector’s attorneys had attacked the veracity of one of the four women who earlier testified they were held at gunpoint by Spector. Jackson said that by attacking that woman the defense implicitly attacked the others as well.
Defense attorney Bradley Brunon argued that prosecutors deliberately held Robitaille’s testimony back until near the end of the trial to give it added impact during the rebuttal stage. That, he said, is impermissible, but the judge disagreed.
“I do believe this does properly qualify as rebuttal evidence,” Fidler said.
After Melissa Grosvenor testified last month that Spector threatened her with a gun the defense called her estranged sister to the witness stand to testify that she had made up the story so she could take part in a high-profile trial.
“She was bragging about going to be on Court TV,” Angela Pileggi Silverstein told jurors.
Fidler said allowing Robitaille to testify would indicate that “other witnesses are telling the truth and there is strength in numbers.”
“For all those reasons, I find this is appropriate rebuttal and I will allow this witness to testify,” the judge said.
The prosecution has made the women’s testimony the heart and soul of its case against Spector, claiming he showed a pattern of taking women home with him, holding them at gunpoint and refusing to allow them to leave.
They say the pattern was repeated with deadly results when 40-year-old actress Lana Clarkson was shot to death in the 67-year-old “Wall of Sound” music producer’s home after going home with him for a drink on Feb. 3, 2003.
Also Wednesday, the battle of the scientists over what really happened to Clarkson’s body after she was shot took an odd turn when one defense expert contradicted another’s theory that Clarkson expelled a projectile spray of blood from her mouth with her dying gasps.
Dr. Jann Leestma, a neuro-pathologist, said under cross-examination that blood would have flowed and there could have been involuntary movements of the body after a gunshot to Clarkson’s mouth severed her spine. But he said a projectile-like spray of blood that would result with force similar to when someone emits a loud “raspberry” would be unlikely.
“If someone were describing a raspberry would that be wrong?” asked Jackson.
“That would be wrong because the brain stem and spinal cord would have to be connected. Someone would have to explain to me how that happened,” Leestma said.
Leestma, who was called to testify about a different subject, said several times he is not a blood spatter expert.
The question of how far blood can travel has been another key issue in the case.
Prosecutors contend that blood spatter on Spector’s jacket got there when he shot Clarkson. The defense says Clarkson shot herself and the spatter could have hit him when he stood as far as six feet away.
In opening statements, the defense’s scientific attorney, Linda Kenney Baden, demonstrated how gases would build up in the mouth from a gunshot, collect in the cheeks and be expelled in a movement similar to a raspberry.
Another defense expert, forensic pathologist Dr. Werner Spitz, agreed with the theory and suggested during earlier testimony that Clarkson could have breathed out blood after she was shot through the mouth, spattering it on Spector’s jacket.
When asked by Jackson how far a final gasp of blood might travel, Spitz said, “Just imagine yourself coughing, terminally expelling the last gasp. How far would that go? Two feet, three feet.”
Leetsma, a scientist who studies the activity of the brain, nerves and muscles, suggested that the position in which Clarkson’s body was found, slumped down in a chair in Spector’s foyer with her legs extended, was possibly the result of reflexive movement after death.
Defense lawyers say that explains why Clarkson has no blood on her legs. They suggest she was seated upright and slumped down after shooting herself, causing her legs to extend rigidly in front of her.
The prosecution’s claim that Spector was standing close to Clarkson, holding a gun in her mouth when he shot her provides another possible explanation for the lack of blood on her legs.
Leestma asked jurors to think back to high school biology classes and dissecting a frog. He noted that when the frog is killed, it continues to move and “the legs straighten out, becoming stiff.”
“That reflex is present in humans,” he said. “It means there has been a disconnection between the brain and extremities.”
Jurors are scheduled to visit the scene of Clarkson’s death on Thursday and will see the foyer themselves.
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